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Wednesday, 21 January 2015 13:43

It’s just how the cookies crumble

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It's 4 o'clock in the morning when, after staying up to keep Chefhusband company though a long night of baking fiddly cookies, my eyelids slam shut.

I wobble, then nearly fall off the stool upon which I've been perched.
"Do you have enough yet?" I ask.
The cookies, little maple leaf-shaped tuile, must be perfect.
They must be identical in size, shape, and golden colour. And each one, as they emerge hot out of the oven, must be gingerly manipulated into a three dimensional wave that gives the effect of the leaves being blown, gently, in the wind.
 "No," comes a voice from inside the oven, and for a moment I'm not sure whether he's reaching for another cookie sheet or, in a fit of cookie fumes, has decided to end it all.
The oven is electric, though. So I don't ask him to move over.
This is the winter of 1998. Chefhusband is newly-graduated from S.A.I.T.'s Culinary Arts program in Calgary. And he's lately begun a three-year apprenticeship in with Chef Dave Ryan, who is not only becoming one of the most highly-awarded competitive chefs on the continent, but will spark a culinary revolution throughout the Okanagan Valley.
"It's just a cookie," I mumble with delirium.
"It's not just a cookie," says Chefhusband. And while I know this to be true, I scowl at the growing collection of leaf litter.
The thing about tuile, you see, is that they crack, crumble, and break more often than they take shape.
But since maple leaves are required to complete an intricate buffet platter, destined for a culinary salon in Regina, Saskatchewan, there is no such thing as sleep. Not when this is Chefhusband's first food show; his first opportunity to show his mentor that he has the chops (and cookies) to compete.
He wins a gold medal.
And over the years that follow, besides leaves, there will be scalene triangles set over a rolling pin so they curve just so. Savoury pink peppercorn tuile, twisted into crispy sticks. And parmesan tuile rings that clasp microgreen salads.
There will be a spot on the provincial culinary team. There will be tuile cones for ice cream. Chocolate fortune cookie tuile. Almond-flecked tuile lattices. Orange-flavoured tuile dessert dishes and spoons. Heart-shaped tuile. Star-shaped tuile. And tuile that aspire to edible modern art in swoops, loops and spires.
The team wins silver at Luxembourg's Culinary World Cup. Then Chefhusband moves over to assume a management role.
"Does this mean no more tuile?" I ask, trying to suppress a squeak of hope.
 "Maybe," he says.
"Can we turn that maybe into a yes?" I nudge.
There's a pause while he thinks.
 "Yes. No more tuile."
It's a promise that sticks. For about a year.
And then one day, the tuile are back.
"You promised!" I say.
"Promised what?" he says, spreading batter over a handmade stencil that used to be a cottage cheese container.
"Nevermind," I sigh. "I should've gotten it in writing."
 "That would probably have been best," he says, smiling, then goes on to describe how the cookie labyrinths he's shaping will be lifted at the centre when warm, to become snazzy dessert cages.
"Can I have your recipe?" I ask, having at last decided that, if I can't win, I may as well join.

Tuile Cups
250 grams (1 cup plus 1 Tbs) butter
250 grams (1 cup plus 2 Tbs) granulated sugar
3 egg whites
240 grams (2 cups plus 2 Tbs) all-purpose flour
In the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter and sugar until fluffy, about 2 minutes. Beat in egg whites, followed by flour.
Line at least two baking sheets with a Silpat baking mat or parchment paper. Spoon 2 tablespoons of the batter onto a sheet. Using an offset spatula, spread batter into a 7-inch circles with the edges slightly thicker than the center. (Three tuile will fit on one sheet.)
Bake at 350F for 9 minutes, rotating sheet halfway through, until edges of cookie turns golden.
Working quickly, and using a small offset spatula, immediately drape cookie over an upside-down custard bowl. Gently mold the warm cookie to the shape of the bowl (a larger bowl placed over top will help save your fingers).
Baker's Note: If the tuile break, use broken bits as buttery shards in an ice cream sundae!

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